|System: Xbox 360|
|Dev: Certain Affinity|
|Pub: Microsoft Studios|
|Release: September 7, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
Combat is more a game of strategy than it is in those other dungeon romps that send waves of enemy fodder that you handily dispatch with a series of attacks. True, Crimson Alliance follows the same sequence, but hurling yourself into a hostile room, waiting to be surrounded, and then unleashing a powerful area attack won't prove successful here. Instead, you have the ability to take sight of the area beforehand, prepare a suitable pick-up item (such as deployable turrets, healing totems, bait food, or explosive throwing axes), take note of all the cover spots, and engage with an element of surprise. Even if playing on the easiest of the five difficulty modes, you'll find a strategic endeavor the most lucrative, and an absolute necessity on the game's hardest mode, aptly called, Ridonkulous!
After completing each level, you will be awarded a score based on your performance, with the total comprising your combat bonus, time bonus (how quickly you clear the level), and secret locations found. The combat bonus is the most critical for high scores, and is significantly improved by remaining untouched. With every unopposed kill, your multiplier gauge increases, effectively increasing your point yield. Executing double kills, triple kills, and party kills also provide experience bonuses. The time bonus, however, feels contradictory to the game's promotion of strategic success, encouraging you to pummel through each level rather than take your time to come up with a solid plan. Yet should you master the map outlay and enemy locations, striving to accomplish both a quick and unscathed clear score will certainly elevate your standing on the global leaderboard. Testing your skill on a higher difficulty also grants a boon to the kill point yield.
The biggest disappointment with Crimson Alliance has to be the sound. There's very little ambient noise even though this is supposed to be a city overrun with denizens. The monster grunts have little variation between them, and the music is pulled from the same music page as Blizzard's dungeon crawler. Sure, it has the right tone for the story, but it does nothing to pull you into its fantasy world.
The final sticking point on everyone's mind is the game's price point. Access to a single character requires dolling out $10, but the complete package costs $15. Even at full price, Crimson Alliance is well worth the cash, offering as much content as you would find in a full retail game. My personal suggestion, though, is since each class plays generally the same, pick the one you like the most and keep the extra five dollars for future downloadable content.
Whether you're just killing time until Diablo III comes around, looking for some fun multiplayer co-op action, or aching for a leaderboard challenge, Crimson Alliance is a great time at a great value.
CCC Contributing Writer